Early permanence

Early permanence (sometimes referred to as Fostering for Adoption) involves placing children with potential adopters who are also approved as temporary foster carers while decisions are made about the child’s future within the family court process.  

PACT encourages all prospective adopters to be open and consider the option of early permanence.

Early permanence has many and profound benefits for children; the main being avoiding unnecessary moves and disruption for a child or children in their young lives. It also has many advantages for carers, including the possibility of early bonding between carers and the child or children; creating a secure and loving family life. However, we recognise this may not be right for everyone and therefore we will discuss it throughout the assessment process to ensure everyone is making an informed decision.

The main principle is that early permanence carers are child-centred and manage the risks and uncertainties so that children do not have to bear the weight of uncertainty.

What are the roles and responsibilities of an early permanence carer? 

Early permanence carers look after babies and young children where the likelihood of them returning to their birth family is low and assessments suggest that adoption is the most realistic long term permanence option. 

In each case, it is carefully considered by all professionals involved (the child’s team) whether the child should be placed in a traditional adoption or early permanence placement. 

As well as ensuring excellent day to day care of the child, early permanence carers work with professionals in supporting the child’s birth family to maintain contact with their child. 

While the court makes decisions about the child’s future, early permanence carers must be willing to invest in the short and long term needs of the child with an understanding that if the child cannot return home, they will adopt them.  

Becoming an early permanence carer is not suitable for all prospective adopters. You will need to be emotionally resilient, flexible and able to manage uncertainties. 

Talking Adoption show

Hear adopter Lillian talk about her experience of early permanence (fostering for adoption) and learn more about the process from the PACT team.

To see more videos in our Talking Adoption series, click below.

View the Talking Adoption show on YouTube

Advantages for the child 

  • A child benefits from stability and continuity of care from the earliest possible stage in their lives with fewer major changes to cope with (see Solihull Approach particularly in relation to early trauma)
  • It allows for early attachment needs to be met and early bonding to begin, avoiding the damage of terminating a child’s relationship with birth parents, then foster carers before going on to be placed for adoption 
  • Potentially it allows for a permanent home to be found for a child as early as possible, with research showing that risks of developmental and behavioural difficulties lessen the earlier a child is placed with permanent carers 

Advantages for you 

  • You may get a very young baby placed with you, potentially straight from hospital, although these children can come with complex needs which we might not know about when they are placed with you 
  • You get to know a child sooner and if you do go on to adopt them, will be able to share those earliest memories with them 
  • You will have a better understanding of a child’s birth family and history, being able to talk more meaningfully to a child about their birth family when they get older 

Things to consider 

  • There are lots of uncertainties with an early permanence placement, can you deal with these? 
  • A child may be returned to their birth parents or another member of the birth family if the court decides this is best for the child. How will you cope if this happens? 
  • Can you manage the role of a foster carer, which includes attending regular meetings and facilitating contact with birth family? 

Frequently asked questions about early permanence

Once each prospective adopter has, after discussion with their social worker, confirmed that they could consider early permanence, they will work together on additional elements of the assessment. Adding this to the assessment will look like a few extra hours. The prospective adopter’s report (PAR) will reflect the work each person does together around this; looking at the practical and emotional aspects.

We will ask prospective early permanence carers to discuss this option with their support network so that they also understand the difference between adoption and early permanence. Social workers will also discuss this with prospective early permanence carer’s referees to ensure they will be able to support the carers throughout their journey.

When prospective early permanence carers go to the approval panel all elements of their report will be considered and they will be recommended for approval to adopt and to be considered for early permanence placements.

Having been recommended for early permanence alongside adoption will mean that applicants will be able to see the profiles of children waiting for adoption as well as children with plans that include early permanence/fostering for adoption.

Once it has been agreed that someone will provide an early permanence placement for a specific child or children, the local authority will temporarily approve them as foster carer/s for this child or children.

Historically the number of children who return to the care of their families is low. However, each child’s circumstances are unique, and it is important to consider whether you can support a child or children as a foster carer through a period of increased uncertainty. Taking the weight of that uncertainty on behalf a child or children is not for everyone and it takes people to be emotionally robust and resilient.

If you think you can consider being a positive part of a child’s life by giving them the best start in life and/or a period of nurture and stability, our adoption social workers will prepare and support you through the uncertainty. If it is decided that a child or children can safely return to the care of their family, early permanence carers understand that they have provided vital stability to a child or children who need it the most. Having already been approved to adopt, applicants will be able to continue their journey towards adoption with the support of their social worker.

Courts should make final decisions about care plan for children within 26 weeks, though it can sometimes take longer.

It is advisable for early permanence carers to check with their employer’s (if applicable) fostering and adoption leave policy. Usually, however, adoption leave begins once the child or children are placed in their care.

Each child’s circumstances are unique and therefore their journey into care differs. For some it can be very quick, within days of being born, and others may take a little longer. It may be useful to consider how flexible current work commitments are.

No, early permanence is increasingly being considered for older children, as well as sisters and/or brothers.

As well as being approved as a PACT adopter, early permanence carers are also approved by local authorities a as a foster carer who will have the legal care of the child or children. Foster carers will need to keep regular notes (daily logs) on the wellbeing and care of the child or children as well as attend frequent meetings with their social worker.

Maintaining the children’s relationship with their family is important while their care plans are formalised through the courts. This is particularly significant as the child or children may return to the care of their birth family. Foster carers play a vital role in enabling children to attend direct family time and supporting them afterwards. Research has shown family time is incredibly important for children in care as it impacts on the development of their identity and gives them a better understanding of their personal history.

The amount of family time is agreed by the court. Each child’s plans are individual. Some may have family time up to 4-5 times a week so it is important that foster carers are able to support children with these opportunities.

Yes, foster carers receive an allowance from the local authority to help with childcare costs.

Foster carers may have a view on what is the best outcome for the child or children in their care. However, early permanence carers do not have any rights in relation to the child or children until the plan for adoption has been approved.

Once the placement order has been granted (the child is freed for adoption), foster carers will become the child or children’s prospective adopters. As soon as they are matched with the child, they can apply for the adoption order, providing the child or children have been living with them for over 10 weeks.

What support will early permanence carers receive? 

PACT has a dedicated children and family support worker for early permanence and a team of experienced social workers ready to help guide applicants through the early permanence process. You will also be invited to attend support groups and linked up with experienced adopters as part of a buddy scheme. We also provide a range of training opportunities, and access to our specialist post-adoption therapeutic support service, FACTS.  

The placing local authority will pay you a fostering allowance while the child is placed under fostering regulations. You may be entitled to adoption allowance, although this is a means tested allowance. 

The government made changes to adoption leave and pay in April 2015, recognising Foster for Adoption in these changes and allowing early permanence carers to take adoption leave and pay (if entitled) from the point a child is placed with them.  

Read some of our case studies about parents who adopted through the early permanence (Foster for Adoption) process

Find out more

If you are considering early permanence or have any questions about our services please contact us or telephone PACT’s dedicated enquiries officers on 0300 456 4800. 

Lines are open 10am-5pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10am-8pm on Tuesday and Thursday, and 10am-1pm on Saturday. 

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